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Q. What is the Center for Career Freedom?
A. We're a government funded non-profit agency with a mission of competitive employment for persons with mental illness.

Q. What can the Center teach me?
A. Our patient Microsoft certified instructors will help you acquire the skills required to earn $10-$15/hour by becoming certified in MS/Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. You'll also learn Windows, Keyboarding and how to surf the Internet.

Q. When are classes held?
A. Classes are offered Monday through Thurs. from 12:30 to 4:30. Call or drop by for the current schedule. Unlimited practice and Internet access are available M-F, 11-5.

Q. How long does it take to become Microsoft Certified?
A. It usually varies from six months to more than two years depending on your prior experience, attendance and ability to learn. Our instructors go at your pace using individual and small classes. There is no time limit.

Q. What if I know nothing about computers or have a learning disability or problems remembering due to electro shock therapy, medications, anxiety or I have to go back into the hospital?
A. Virtually all of our students suffer from one or more of these issues. To meet these challenges the Center has spent thousands of hours adapting and refining our curriculum, teaching methodology, staff qualifications and software to accommodate the special needs of each student. We strive to make your transition to successful student smooth and enjoyable.

Q. I've never been good at taking exams and I'm worried I'll fail-can you help me?
A. Yes, in several ways' you'll gain confidence and skills through Microsoft Certification pre-tests. These rehearsals will enable you to focus on areas which need improvement and to become comfortable with the final exam content and format. When you score in the 90's on the pre-test you are ready to go on-line and take the Microsoft Certification exam. Individual exams are scheduled before or after class time and are proctored by an instructor. The Center for Career Freedom has arranged for double the exam time (90 minutes) for its students under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students may take the exam until they pass. Microsoft generously waived the $80 fee.

Q. I've been out of work for a while, I'm on SSI (or SSDI) and I need to earn money-will the Center help me get a job without losing my benefits?
A. Yes. The Center for Career Freedom will work with you to create your Individual Career Plan consisting of your Microsoft certified training program, vocational options, resume, job search plan, Social Security Administration Ticket-to-Work requirements and how to transition to competitive employment without losing your benefits; Medicaid Buy-in, Pass Plan, 1619b and other economics of recovery.

Q. Do you serve persons other than those with psychiatric disabilities?
A. No, our mission, government funding and experience are limited to serving persons with a primary diagnosis of depression/anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective, borderline disorder, PTSD and others who reside in Westchester County.

Q. In researching other schools, I found they offered a "diploma" or their own "certificate" if you attend so many classes. Also, the courses were broken down into "elementary", "intermediate" and "advanced" groups. Why doesn't the Center offer their courses this way too?
A. The Center for Career Freedom's goal is to provide you with the most effective path to a successful, satisfying career. As consumer/survivors ourselves we probably understand your needs and feelings better than most. Microsoft "wrote the book" for 90% of the office applications in the world. Microsoft Certification demands a much higher level of skill than an institution's certificate or diploma. Our program will empower you to demonstrate the skills necessary to get the job you want. You won't be embarrassed because you were poorly prepared for the interview. And, the Center for Career Freedom's name does not appear on your Microsoft Certificate.

Q. DSS/One-Stop's Intensive Services has a budget for my Microsoft certified training - is this sufficient if I attend the Center for two years?
A. Yes, thanks to Westchester's Department of Community Mental Health many of the core services are already paid for. We are a charity not a business, so even if you are not funded you are always welcome to attend classes.

Q. Before I can commit to becoming a student I need to make arrangements for my-benefits/housing/food/debt/meds/legal/appeals/applications, etc. - do you help with these?
A. Yes. We will conduct an assessment, provide most applications and refer you to the appropriate agency.

Q. Are teaching internships available?
A. There are a limited number of teaching internships available to certified students continuing their studies. After one year of successful internship you will have the opportunity for paid employment at the Center and as part of our Mobile Training Team which provides onsite training at other community agencies.

Q. There are so many basic things I need before I can go back to work; clothing, a bus pass, radio alarm clock, and watch - can the Center help with these things?
A. Yes. All of these items are included in our Employment Transition Kit. And for Microsoft certified students that work at least 15 hours/week for 6 months we'll award them a Pentium II or III computer.

Q. Where is the Center located?
A. On the second floor at the corner of East Post Road and South Lexington Avenue. One block south of White Plains Hospital. The #40 bus stops across the street. Metered parking is available in the municipal lot at the corner of South Lexington and Maple Ave.

Q. How can I learn more about the Center?
A. Log onto our Website: www.freecenter.org for a virtual tour and/or call for an appointment to see our facilities, meet with a counselor and decide if the program is right for you.



Q. How is the Center different from other Training Providers?

  • We only serve persons with verifiable psychiatric disabilities (SSI and/or SSD)
  • Students attend classes as long as required until they become Microsoft Certified. There is no time limit
  • Students must earn their certificates according to Microsoft’s standards-not ours. We do not award diplomas.
  • We provide career counseling and job supports
  • We provide case management services, benefits, transportation, food, clothing, legal, etc.
  • We provide stipends, training materials, lunch, transportation, transition to work kit and following six months of employment, a refurbished Pentium 2 or 3 computer.

Q. How can a person with a chronic psychiatric disability benefit from Microsoft training?
A. Our experience with over five-hundred persons with chronic mental illness; depression/anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsion and others, leads us to estimate that perhaps 25% of the some fifteen thousand persons with chronic mental illness in Westchester County are able to complete the rigorous Microsoft Certification Program. The Center's excellent reputation is widely known among consumer/survivors, service providers and government and we attract persons who are serious about their recovery.

The majority of our students have attended/graduated college and have a solid 10+ year work history before their disability cut short their career. While they could probably collect carts at Safeway for $6/hr. they are capable of earning more and getting off disability. We estimate that every person who leaves SSI/SSD and becomes a taxpayer will contribute over $100,000+ to the economy in their lifetime.

Q. What are the Center’s qualifications?
A. All six instructors are Microsoft Certified in their specialty; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook and have at least two years of computer application teaching experience. Personal characteristics include abundant patience, empathy, and an encouraging manner. The Center is a New York State Registered Business School, a Microsoft Certified Office User Training Center, a Department of Social Services One Stop Workforce Training Provider and a Social Security Administration Ticket-to-Work Employment Network. We’re the only non-profit in the state to hold these credentials.

Q. How do the Center’s costs compare to other training providers?
A. A direct comparison of tuition costs is difficult because we provide training which must meet Microsoft’s exacting certification standards plus case management, food, stipends, job development, incentives, etc. to a chronically disabled population with a specially trained staff at a very high student to instructor ratio (5:1) for an unlimited time period.

The tuition to obtain a minimum skill level; keyboarding (45 wpm), Windows and Microsoft Word Certification is 4,200 or about $8/instructional hour. The tuition includes the stipend, transportation and books. Grants from Westchester County office of Workforce Investment cover most of the training. The Department of Community Mental Health covers the cost of the case management and social activities. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by Dr. Smith is covered by Medicaid/Medicare. Vocational services by SSA and a partnership with MHA’s JobsPlus.

Q. What is the Center’s record of employment success?
A. While most of the Center’s three hundred fifty members strive to become Microsoft Certified and return to competitive employment, only about twenty have achieved Microsoft Certification in the past year. Of these, about half are employed ($10-20/hr) and half are enrolled in additional MS Certified courses; most often PowerPoint and Excel.

Another fifty-five students left before completing the certification program for employment. Most of these attended the Center for less than six months to brush up on their skills.

Q. How many students can the Center accommodate in a years time?
A. About one-hundred. However only ten students have been referred to One-Stop’s Intensive Services this year under a new pilot initiative for highly motivated students called “The Fast-Trac Training and Supported Employment Program.”


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